Episode 29 – Inclement Weather


Toolbox Topic: Inclement Weather

Bad weather can expose employees to many hazards. These hazards can lead to workplace injuries or even fatalities. Let’s quickly look at some of the dangers you could be exposed to:

  • Lightning / Electrocution
  • Struck by objects
  • Slips
  • Trips
  • Falls
  • Drowning



Inclement weather is any severe weather that makes travel or outdoor labor unsafe or impossible. Severe weather conditions include lightning strikes, wildfires, sleet, snow, rain, hurricanes, icy temperatures, high winds, and tornadoes.


History of Inclement Weather

Basically, mankind has been battling with weather since the dawn of time. He has increased his chances of survival by anticipating and planning for weather events. As early as 630 B. C., Babylonians tried to predict weather changes by studying cloud formations.



Flooding is talked about extensively in the bible. Remember Sunday school? God told Noah to build an ark. Building that ark would not only save all living creatures but also save his family from the great flood.

In 1931, several heavily populated cities in China were affected by major floods. It’s estimated that between One and four million people died. The flooding affected Thirty-four thousand square miles of land, leaving 80 million homeless.

A dam collapse in Buffalo Creek, West Virginia, caused significant flooding in 1972. When the first dam broke, it caused a chain reaction. The pressure from the first dam caused a second and then a third to break. Over 132 million gallons were released. This disaster resulted in the deaths of 125 people and more than 1,100 injuries. Nearly all of the 5,000 residents downstream were left homeless. Only four days before the disaster, the dam had been declared “satisfactory.”

After heavy rainfall in 1976, a flash flood in Colorado’s Big Thompson Canyon resulted in the deaths of 144 people. It caused almost 40 million dollars worth of property damage. The water reached speeds of over 30 feet per second, making the currents capable of moving 250-ton boulders.

In 1993, excessive rainfall in the Mississippi River basin caused massive flooding that resulted in $20 billion worth of damages. That event is often referred to as the Great Flood of 1993.



The Tri-State Tornado swept through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on March 18, 1925. It killed 695 people. It holds the records for longest path length (219 miles), longest duration (3 1/2 hours), and the fastest forward speed (73 mph). After inflation, it was also the third-most expensive tornado in history.

On April 26, 1989, Bangladesh was hit by the deadliest tornado in its history. It killed nearly 1,300 people.

The 1974 Super Outbreak was the largest tornado outbreak in nearly every category for 37 years. It affected large areas of the United States and parts of Canada. This outbreak produced 148 tornadoes in just 18 hours. It also featured an unprecedented number of violent storms: 7 were F5-intensity, and 23 were F4. At its peak, 16 tornadoes were on the ground at once. During this outbreak, more than 300 people were killed. This record was only broken by the 2011 Super Outbreak, which produced 360 tornadoes and ended in 324 deaths.



The 3 Deadliest U.S. Mainland Hurricanes include:

The Great Galveston Hurricane (TX) in 1900 was a CAT 4, claiming 800 lives.

The Lake Okeechobee Hurricane (F.L.) in 1929 was also a Cat 4, resulting in 2500 deaths.

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina affected L.A., MS, FL, GA, and A.L. It was a CAT 3 and ended with 1200 dead.

As we discussed earlier, man has been trying to predict the weather since the beginning of time. Today, meteorologists can reliably predict the weather about 90% of the time. Still, weather prediction will likely never be perfect, and much about the intensity of weather events and the areas most affected are still unknown until they happen. This limitation makes preparedness essential.


Inclement Weather Statistics

In the United States, flood damages totaled $8.41 billion in 2011. There were 113 flood-related deaths.

Over 20,000 occupational injuries were caused by sleet, ice, and snow in 2017 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

As per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), twenty percent of workplace injuries are caused by slips, trips, and falls.

Additionally, slips and falls account for 15% of all accidental fatalities, second only to auto accidents.


Inclement Weather Safety Tips

Safety Tip #1 Tornados

If a tornado is sighted, take the appropriate actions to protect yourself:


SEEK SHELTER – If you are currently inside a building, move as close to the center of the structure as you can.


GET DOWN – If underground is an option, take it. If not, and It’s feasible, move to the ground floor level, if on an upper floor.


COVER – The most lethal aspect of a storm is flying and falling debris. Cover up and shield your body and head from flying objects using anything at hand, helmets, coats, cushions, or anything you can use to protect yourself.

Planning is essential for surviving a tornado. Everyone should be aware of the workplace plan and should practice it.


Safety Tip #2 Hurricanes

  • Remain inside.
  • Have an emergency kit.
  • Tune in to local radio or T.V. stations for updates on changing conditions.
  • If necessary, leave the area as directed by local officials.


Safety Tip #3 Lightning

  • Stay indoors and away from doors and windows.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances.
  • Steer clear of tubs and sinks.
  • Make calls or use mobile devices ONLY in times of need.

If outside:

  • Steer clear of anything metallic.
  • Stay away from bodies of water.
  • Avoid standing in open areas beneath a tree.
  • Seek shelter.


Safety Tip #4 Rain and Flooding

  • Move to higher ground and avoid storm drains, ditches, and streams.
  • Keep clear of flooding areas.
  • Avoid walking in flood waters.
  • Avoid driving in water of unknown depth.


Safety Tip #5 Stop Work Authority and Situational Awareness

Always take precautions when working in inclement weather. If the weather conditions become unsafe, use stop work authority. What is stop work authority? Stop work authority is when conditions become unsafe, and work is stopped. Contact a supervisor and make them aware of the situation. A good real-world example, I worked with a company, and we had an employee visit a job site during a heavy rain storm. The ground conditions were unsafe. Subsequently, the employee slipped in the mud when he tried to exit his vehicle. He immediately tried to grab what I like to call the “oh crap handle” of his vehicle’s door, resulting in a shoulder injury. So always practice situational awareness and don’t put yourself in any unnecessary danger.




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